For the first time in a number of years I was able to enjoy a vacation. Being able to play a bunch of Magic at Grand Prix San Diego and not run the events or deal with the usual issues of trying to keep up Standard for a week was a nice change of pace.
This vacation meant I had a lot of time to draft and catch up on Magic Origins. Thankfully for my sanity, the format wasn’t as quick as I had first assumed and you can still play slower decks. You still need a curve—the bane of triple-7-drop LSV decks everywhere. Renown means that you absolutely need to interact early to avoid being run over early by these creatures. This gives many the impression that white is hands-down the best color in the format, but thankfully no single color is trash.
As it turns out, you don’t need Triplicate Spirits to make a great color, you just need some of the best creatures on curve at common and Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, Knightly Valor, and Air Elemental at uncommon. As long as you don’t pair up with black you’ll be fine.
As per usual, Rolle sent me the data for Magic Origins Draft and I’ve been pretty surprised at the big picture. It’s worth noting that white doesn’t have the best win percentage on Magic Online and that actually all the colors are within the margins of playability and the difference between best and worst color win percentage is 1.3%. There was a lot of anti-green sentiment leading into the Pro Tour and I’m surprised that at least around the “average” skill, this is illusory.
Thoughts on Color Combinations
WR is not only the most drafted, but still retains a good win rate. Online it’s almost overdrafted, but it may not actually be overdrafted yet, considering it’s still one of the most successful archetypes. It has a good mix of early creatures, takes advantage of renown between cheap removal and combat tricks, and can run away with the game against slow starts or mulligans.
WG is at a weird crossroads between aggressive and slow midrange critters. I’ve personally had a hard time making green work in aggressive decks, especially since Leaf Gilder prefers 4- and 5-drops. Wild Instincts at 4 being one of the only decent pieces of removal available makes me lean toward the middle of the road.
BR is the best archetype, and what pushes it over the top is Nantuko Husk. This unassuming card allows for so many sweet synergies and lets mediocre cards shine. It also means that if the battlefield becomes all small guys gridlocked by a pair of x/4s, Husk can break through while the WR player has to hope for a relevant removal spell. It helps that you have access to the most cheap removal of any color combo.
BG being so heavily drafted surprises me a bit, but the basic mentality of creatures plus removal is at home in the final core set. It doesn’t do anything particularly well or impressive, but it sets a good baseline for how good your deck should be. I assumed that it would remain one of the best durdle decks around, and instead I frequently found it outclassed by other colors.
UB just doesn’t do much well, and the lack of prominent cheap removal or decent early-game creatures likely has a lot to do with this. Reave Soul is a great card in the format, but there aren’t a lot of other effects to really control the early game. I’ve tried a bunch of approaches to UB and the only one I liked was stalling out and winning via Sphinx’s Tutelage. The creature quality is low and you don’t have access to a ton of good defensive creatures.
The recommended approach remains the same as it is for many formats, stay open early and then commit and try to force other players out of your way. The format isn’t deep on playables, though it’s miles better than Born of the Gods or Fate Reforged were. So when you see power cards coming late, that may be your one chance to jump on the train and at least set yourself up to reap rewards. There’s always a chance you trainwreck, but that’s just true of any format without really deep packs.
Magic Online Data on Colors
Thoughts on Cards
Overall the power level is quite flat and spread out pretty evenly. For everyone who hated the last few bomb-filled formats, it’s hard to complain about super mythics or rares. You could make a legitimate argument that Whirler Rogue is the overall best card in the format once you take mana cost into account, though it isn’t in the best colors, so maybe it evens out.
With that said, if the opponent starts flinging 7-drop rares around at you, the game is likely not ending in your favor. The format is fast, but the giant mana spells are quite powerful and can turn the game around in a hurry. You just won’t always have that long to actually cast them compared to past core sets. One personal example is Skysnare Spider, a strong card that I’ve found is vastly overrated by the majority of online drafters. The card is strong, but in more than a few situations the game simply ended the turn on or after it hit the board.
All the gold creatures are ridiculous bombs and it amuses me to no end whenever I get a Blazing Hellhound or Wyvern 4th or 5th pick. People may not want to commit early, but these cards are massive payoffs and in other formats would be pick-1 slams. Treat them with respect.
It should be noted that Ghirapur Gearcrafter and Separatist Voidmage are nearly as good as Claustrophobia and Fiery Impulse in many decks. While the removal still has a tiny edge, creatures with good abilities are hard to come by at common. Considering how even the vanilla guys in the format have relatively small bodies, that indirectly gives the utility guys a boost—they can attack or block effectively throughout the game.
Speaking of small bodies, this means the Overrun of the format, Joraga Invocation, is just a massive beating. Can we just stop with the Overrun effects in Limited? I’m glad we aren’t printing outright better Overruns, but even the toned-down models are ridiculously tough to stop unless your deck leans heavily toward board control. This isn’t Hearthstone and we can’t attack creatures directly, you shouldn’t get demolished for not being fortunate enough to see 7 removal spells or a super-fast aggressive deck in the draft.
Overall I’m happy at the change from Dragons of Tarkir draft and I’m impressed at just how good core sets got at Limited compared to their predecessors. They may not all have been winners, but they certainly have a heck of a lot more thought and strategy between them than the pre-M sets.
Next week we’ll be back to the dog days of Summer Standard, see you then!